T RENG-RCAF troops have taken ground along Route 10 to establish a new front line
around 12 km west of Treng - but a Western analyst warned the gains may be
On June 21 the Post was allowed to go as far as the third front
line at Phum Tuol on the highway which is one of the country's principal flash
points. From the new frontline at Svay Sor village the Khmer Rouge's
headquarters at Pailin lies another 35 km to the west.
along the highway were being held up by the KR digging in on the neighboring
Samdech mountains, said General Beth Choy.
He said there had been little
fighting in the last few days and he and other commanders said they were not
expecting an upsurge in the wake of the guerrillas being ejected from their
Phnom Penh compound by the Royal Government.
The new gains are
particularly welcome to the RCAF seeking to regain its credibility following the
embarrassing flight from Pailin and subsequent helter skelter retreat along
Route 10 to within 20 km of the provincial capital of Battambang in April and
But a Western military analyst cautioned that while the RCAF may
have pushed the guerrillas back along the highway, it has failed to make any
impression on KR ground on the flanks and has in effect created a narrow pocket,
in places perhaps only 20 km wide.
At Phum Toul, Lt Col Nou Kong said
malaria and stomach disorders caused by a lack of fresh water were bigger
enemies than the KR, with a high percentage of frontline troops suffering
He and other officers appealed to the West to help with
desperately needed medical supplies.
The new advances have been mainly
achieved by infantry thrusts and resupply was being carried out on foot from
Chav village onwards, just 2 km in front of Treng, with the highway yet to be
swept for anti-tank mines.
Gen Soeng Vanna, who heads Division 5 said:
"We are using a different strategy to the attack on Pailin. We are going slowly
and consolidating gains step by step. We have had experience from losing Pailin
The general, who has lost one arm, added that Phnom Penh had
yet to issue orders to mount a fresh offensive on Pailin. Fighting traditionally
grinds to a halt in the wet season.
The advance was supported by daily
bombing runs made from Battambang by two Mi-8 helicopters, though these were
withdrawn to Phnom Penh on June 21 with the onset of the rainy
Gen Choy said that as little as 200 meters separated the opposing
frontlines and dense undergrowth in between meant that RCAF might not spot
counter attacking guerrrillas until they were only 30 meters
Two-star Gen Math Cheala put RCAF troop strength at 1,000 from
Treng forward and said they are facing up to 550 guerrillas.
the government had just two veteran T-54 tanks and a single Russian made 152mm
Gen Cheala said they were facing 4-5 KR tanks and 122
and 130mm cannon.
During the Post's visit the only military activity
evident was a KR mortar barrage on the frontline being answered by a salvo from
the 152mm gun.
He said his men had adequate supplies of ammunition and
several were seen sporting brand new AK-47s, said to be produced in Singapore,
under licence from China.
Treng itself is undergoing a rebuilding after
it was torched in the KR push towards Battambang. The settlement has been purely
a barracks for several years, while the highway's Western-most concentration of
civilians is at Kilo 38.
However for now most troops are having make do
with makeshift shelters of plastic sheets hung between tree
Battambang's First Deputy Governor Gen Serei Kosal said that
the entire army was to undergo a rolling program of intensive training at
barracks in an effort to iron out deficiencies laid bare by the retreat from